Estimating: Bidding Project Specifications
by Len Hijuelos
I have, on occasion, referred to change orders, extra work orders and recouping the monies due for performing such work. Recently, there was an article on this subject in another trade publication, which I found to be of interest and yet somewhat unrealistic.
First, I liked the writer's premise that we, as painting contractors, probably do too much "free work." Unfortunately, because of the nature of our craft and the role we play in the final appearance of a structure, we are in a unique position compared to other trades to be pressured into doing things over and above the scope of work for the project. Secondly, his definition of "extra work" was interesting. Very simply, "extra work is work that wasn't included in the bid." I'm not sure that definition goes quite far enough. In actuality, most extra work, whether it is done by change order or on a cost-plus basis, is caused by changes in the design, in the finishes or by activities or non-activities of other trades, all of which impact the painting contractor.
The writer suggested that one way of coping with this problem is to attach to the proposal a statement that the bid is based on "x" number of square feet of surface at so-much-per-square-foot of coating and that the project will be field-measured upon completion. I think there are several things wrong with this. First, I can't imagine a general contractor or owner accepting such a bid. In fact, I'm not sure you could really call that a bid.
Secondly, it is too simplistic — on what would you base the footage and the unit price? Normally, on any given project, my pricing sheet will have anywhere from 30 to 40 line items of work processes. Also, even if I could come up with a scenario, I would be very reluctant to provide that information to a general contractor or owner. I can imagine several ways in which that could come back and haunt a painting contractor. There is other language and/or conditions the writer suggests that, again, in my mind would negate the bid.
My suggestion for dealing with a general contractor or owner is somewhat less complicated and certainly more realistic. A bid obviously should be based on the project specifications, including all addenda, alternates, general and special conditions and those technical sections specifically related to the painting contractor's scope of work. Any exceptions or qualifications to any part of the specifications that could impact the painting section(s) should be clearly spelled out.
For example, it is not unusual for the architectural woodwork or millwork sections to overlap the painting sections or even be directly contradictory. Obviously, this needs to be addressed. Either you include or exclude these items and so note on your proposal, or alternatively, you can provide the finishing of these items as a separate price. Either way, the general contractor or owner knows what you have included or excluded in your proposal, and you have covered yourself against potential problems.
There is a definite need to protect your interests when bidding any project. This does not mean that you have to prepare a multi-page legal document; that type of proposal would probably be thrown out anyway. Giving some thought to the development of a standard format for your proposals is helpful. There are a couple of other pluses here — a well thought out proposal form simply is more professional, and also, the general contractors get used to your format and know what to look for and how to get a read on your proposal.
To protect yourself in the proposal stage, and in order to eliminate or at least minimize freebies, you must diligently monitor the project. So, to use one of my favorite words — document, document, document.
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